Posts Tagged ‘War in Iraq’

Five years too long

March 31, 2008

(Article published Mar 28, 2008 in the South Bend Tribune)


By KATHY LIGGETT

It has become a sad ritual among people of peace in the Michiana community. March 19 has come and gone and we have marked yet another anniversary of the seemingly endless war in Iraq. It’s hard to believe that the war Vice President Cheney cavalierly predicted would last “weeks rather than months” is now beginning a sixth costly year.

Despite Americans’ overwhelming disapproval of the war in Iraq there appears to be no will or resolve by the folks in Washington to end it. Four thousand of our sons and daughters have been killed. Tens of thousands have been wounded. Every one of the 1.7 million who have served in Iraq has been changed for life. The cost of war, paid in the blood of the enlisted and in the pain borne by their families, touches so few households, or so it seems.

Those sitting at home safe in the knowledge that it’s not their child in harm’s way must understand that they, too, are paying a steep price for the Iraq war. The war has cost each American family of four about $16,500. Doesn’t that make complaining about a $25 wheel tax seem a little silly?

Recently, Nobel Prize winner Joseph Stiglitz and Harvard professor Linda Bilmes suggested that the true cost of the war will reach $3 trillion when hidden items such as long-term care for disabled veterans and replacement of depleted military equipment are taken into account. One might recall when President Bush’s Man, Mitch Daniels, as director of the Office of Management and Budget, told us that the Iraq war would cost between $50 billion and $60 billion.The United States spends $720 million in Iraq every single day. The costs in lost opportunity — what the money could have been spent on — boggles the mind.

For just one day of war in Iraq we could build 84 new schools or pay for college for 34,900 students, or build 6,482 homes (www.afsc.org/cost).

Of course, an even more shocking truth about the monetary cost of the Iraq war is that all of that money is being borrowed. Yes, we are taking out loans from countries such as China and Saudi Arabia. And our kids, grandkids and great grandkids will be paying it back, with interest.

But isn’t the war worth the cost? Aren’t the Iraqi people better off rid of a brutal dictator like Saddam Hussein? Well, not exactly.

Epidemiologists estimate that 655,000 more people have died since the start of the war than would have died if the invasion had not occurred. As many as 4 million Iraqis have been displaced.Unemployment among Iraqis is estimated to be as high as 60 percent with 43 percent living in severe poverty. Children suffer chronic malnutrition at a rate of 28 percent (CNN.com, July 30, 2007). Daily life, despite the rosy scenario presented by the Bush administration, brings safe drinking water to only 30 percent of the Iraqi people. Baghdad homes have electricity an average of 5.6 hours a day.

So how is it that this war, based on lies, continues to rage on, causing death and unspeakable injury to Americans and Iraqis alike? How is it that a war that is bankrupting us and future generations continues with little or no oversight as to how billions of dollars are being spent? How is it that we care so little about our moral standing in the world and are oblivious to the millions of new enemies the war in Iraq has created for us? How is it that we ask so much of our men and women in uniform yet look the other way when they return as disabled veterans or ask for benefits they have earned? How is it that a war that is disapproved of by the vast majority of Americans rages on into a sixth year?

We go back to those folks in Washington. They need to be reminded that endless war in Iraq is not an option. It’s not good for Americans and it’s not good for Iraqis.

Rallies are great to show solidarity with others in the struggle to end the war. Vigils give us pause. However, rallies and vigils alone will not end this war .

Write a letter or, better yet, pick up the phone. It’s time to make our voices heard by our elected officials in Washington.

Kathy Liggett lives in Mishawaka.

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Earning citizenship by dying for the US

March 24, 2008

[The following story underscores the need for comprehensive immigration reform. Unfortunately, Rep. Joe Donnelly has thus far held to what has been described as an “enforcement first, second, and last” approach. – DW]

Families torn by citizenship for the fallen

by Helen O’Neill, AP correspondent

A young, ambitious immigrant from Guatemala who dreamed of becoming an architect. A Nigerian medic. A soldier from China who boasted he would one day become an American general. An Indian native whose headstone displays the first Khanda, emblem of the Sikh faith, to appear in Arlington National Cemetery.

These were among more than 100 foreign-born members of the U.S. military who earned American citizenship by dying in Iraq.

Jose Gutierrez was one of the first to fall, killed by friendly fire in the dust of Umm Qasr in the opening hours of the invasion.

In death, the young Marine was showered with honors his family could only have dreamed of in life. His sister was flown in from Guatemala for his memorial service, where a Roman Catholic cardinal presided and top military officials saluted his flag-draped coffin.

And yet, his foster mother agonized as she accompanied his body back for burial in Guatemala City: Why did Jose have to die for America in order to truly belong?

Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles, who oversaw Gutierrez’s service, put it differently.

“There is something terribly wrong with our immigration policies if it takes death on the battlefield in order to earn citizenship,” Mahony wrote to President Bush in April 2003. He urged the president to grant immediate citizenship to all immigrants who sign up for military service in wartime.

“They should not have to wait until they are brought home in a casket,” Mahony said.

But as the war continues, more and more immigrants are becoming citizens in death — and more and more families are grappling with deeply conflicting feelings about exactly what the honor means.

Gutierrez’s citizenship certificate — dated to his death on March 21, 2003, — was presented during a memorial service in Lomita, Calif., to Nora Mosquera, who took in the orphaned teen after he had trekked through Central America, hopping freight trains through Mexico before illegally sneaking into the U.S.

“On the one hand I felt that citizenship was too late for him,” Mosquera said. “But I also felt grateful and very proud of him. I knew it would open doors for us as a family.”

“What use is a piece of paper?” cried Fredelinda Pena after another emotional naturalization ceremony, this one in New York City where her brother’s framed citizenship certificate was handed to his distraught mother. Next to her, the infant daughter he had never met dozed in his fiancee’s arms.

Cpl. Juan Alcantara, 22, a native of the Dominican Republic, was killed Aug. 6, 2007, by an explosive in Baqouba. He was buried by a cardinal and eulogized by a congressman but to his sister, those tributes seemed as hollow as citizenship.

“He can’t take the oath from a coffin,” she sobbed.

There are tens of thousands of foreign-born members in the U.S. armed forces. Many have been naturalized, but more than 20,000 are not U.S. citizens.

“Green card soldiers,” they are often called, and early in the war, Bush signed an executive order making them eligible to apply for citizenship as soon as they enlist. Previously, legal residents in the military had to wait three years.

Since Bush’s order, nearly 37,000 soldiers have been naturalized. And 109 who lost their lives have been granted posthumous citizenship.

They are buried with purple hearts and other decorations, and their names are engraved on tombstones in Arlington as well as in Mexico and India and Guatemala.

Among them:

• Marine Cpl. Armando Ariel Gonzalez, 25, who fled Cuba on a raft with his father and brother in 1995 and dreamed of becoming an American firefighter. He was crushed by a refueling tank in southern Iraq on April 14, 2003.

• Army Spc. Justin Onwordi, a 28-year-old Nigerian medic whose heart seemed as big as his smiling 6-foot-4 frame and who left behind a wife and baby boy. He died when his vehicle was blown up in Baghdad on Aug. 2, 2004.

• Army Pfc. Ming Sun, 20, of China who loved the U.S. military so much he planned to make a career out of it, boasting that he would rise to the rank of general. He was killed in a firefight in Ramadi on Jan. 9, 2007.

• Army Spc. Uday Singh, 21, of India, killed when his patrol was attacked in Habbaniyah on Dec. 1, 2003. Singh was the first Sikh to die in battle as a U.S. soldier, and it is his headstone at Arlington that displays the Khanda.

• Marine Lance Cpl. Patrick O’Day from Scotland, buried in the California rain as bagpipes played and his 19-year-old pregnant wife told mourners how honored her 20-year-old husband had felt to fight for the country he loved.

“He left us in the most honorable way a man could,” Shauna O’Day said at the March 2003 Santa Rosa service. “I’m proud to say my husband is a Marine. I’m proud to say my husband fought for our country. I’m proud to say he is a hero, my hero.”

Not all surviving family members feel so sure. Some parents blame themselves for bringing their child to the U.S. in the first place. Others face confusion and resentment when they try to bury their child back home.

At Lance Cpl. Juan Lopez’s July 4, 2004, funeral in the central Mexican town of San Luis de la Paz, Mexican soldiers demanded that the U.S. Marine honor guard surrender their arms, even though the rifles were ceremonial. Earlier, the Mexican Defense Department had denied the Marines’ request to conduct the traditional 21-gun salute, saying foreign troops were not permitted to bear arms on Mexican soil.

And so mourners, many deeply opposed to the war, witnessed an extraordinary 45-minute standoff that disrupted the funeral even as Lopez’s weeping widow was handed his posthumous citizenship by a U.S. embassy official.

The same swirl of conflicting emotions and messages often overshadows the military funerals of posthumous citizens in the U.S.

Smuggled across the Mexican border in his mother’s arms when he was 2 months old, Jose Garibay was just 21 when he died in Nasiriyah. The Costa Mesa police department made him an honorary police officer, something he had hoped one day to become. America made him a citizen.

But his mother, Simona Garibay, couldn’t conceal her bewilderment and pain. It seemed, she said in interviews after the funeral, that more value was being placed on her son’s death than on his life.

Immigrant advocates have similar mixed feelings about military service. Non-citizens cannot become officers or serve in high-security jobs, they note, and yet the benefits of citizenship are regularly pitched by recruiters, and some recruitment programs specifically target colleges and high schools with predominantly Latino students.

“Immigrants are lured into service and then used as political pawns or cannon fodder,” said Dan Kesselbrenner, executive director of the National Immigration Project, a program of the National Lawyers Guild. “It is sad thing to see people so desperate to get status in this country that they are prepared to die for it.”

Others question whether non-citizens should even be permitted to serve. Mark Krikorian of the conservative Center for Immigration Studies, argues that defending America should be the job of Americans, not non-citizens whose loyalty might be suspect. In granting special benefits, including fast-track citizenship, Krikorian says, there is a danger that soldiering will eventually become yet another job that Americans won’t do.

And yet, immigrants have always fought — and died — in America’s wars.

During the Cvil War, the Union army recruited Irish and German immigrants off the boat. Alfred Rascon, an illegal immigrant from Mexico, received the Medal of Honor for acts of bravery during the Vietnam war. In the 1990s, Gen. John Shalikashvili, born in Poland after his family fled the occupied Republic of Georgia, became chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

After the Iraq invasion, the U.S. Embassy in Mexico fielded hundreds of requests from Mexicans offering to fight in exchange for citizenship. They mistakenly believed that Bush’s order also applied to nonresidents.

The right to become an American is not automatic for those who die in combat. Families must formally apply for citizenship within two years of the soldier’s death, and not all choose to do so.

“He’s Italian, better to leave it like that,” Saveria Romeo says of her 23-year-old son, Army Staff Sgt. Vincenzo Romeo, who was born in Calabria, died in Iraq and is buried in New Jersey. A miniature Italian flag marks his grave, next to an American one.

“What good would it do?” she says. “It won’t bring back my son.”

But it would allow her to apply for citizenship for herself, a benefit only recently offered to surviving parents and spouses. Until 2003 posthumous citizenship was granted only through an act of Congress and was purely symbolic. There were no benefits for next of kin.

Romeo says she has no desire to apply. She says she couldn’t bear to benefit in any way from her son’s death. And besides, she feels Italian, not American.

Fernando Suarez del Solar just feels angry — angry at what he considers the futility of a war that claimed his only son, angry at the military recruiters he says courted young Jesus relentlessly even when the family still lived in Tijuana.

His son was just 13, Suarez del Solar said, when he was first dazzled by Marine recruiters in a California mall. For the next two years Jesus begged the family to emigrate and eventually they did, settling in Escondido, Calif., where the teen signed up for the Marines before he left high school.

Lance Cpl. Jesus Suarez Del Solar was 20 when he was killed by a bomb in the first week of the war. He left behind a wife and baby and parents so bitter about his death that they eventually divorced.

Today, his 52-year-old father has become an outspoken peace activist who travels the country organizing anti-war marches, giving speeches and working with counter-recruitment groups to dissuade young Latinos from joining the U.S. military.

“There is nothing in my life now but saving these young people,” he says. “It is just something I feel have to do.”

But first he had to journey to Iraq. He had to see for himself the dusty stretch of wasteland where his son became an American. In tears, he planted a small wooden cross. And he prayed for his son — and for all the other immigrants who became citizens in death.

No pubic statement from Donnelly on Iraq War Anniversary?

March 21, 2008

A perusal of the region’s news outlets seems to show that Rep. Joe Donnelly chose to stay out of sight on the 5th Anniversary of the War in Iraq.

Remember candidate Donnelly proclaiming how he would not be a “rubber stamp” for the Bush administration?

Now consider Donnelly’s repeated siding with the Bush administration and the GOP on the continuation of this quagmire, this war that “could last 100 years” according to John McCain.

Video: Citizens of South Bend, IN Commemorate 5th Anniversary of Iraq War

March 20, 2008

Today is 5th Anniversary of the Iraq War: Donnelly (used to) oppose troop surge

March 19, 2008

As reported in a recent USA Today story from 2/17/08:

“I feel we’ve made progress, and the other part is I feel we can see an endgame in sight.

He offered a much different view five months before his trip, when he said on the House floor: “I fear this surge will not lead to an Iraq that will be stable over the long term, but will instead put more … American troops into harm’s way.

Donnelly touts federal aid for Active Guard and Researve child care

March 11, 2008

(From WSBT )

The new policy will provide federal help with child care for more than 50,000 children of Active Guard and Reserve personnel.

U.S. Rep. Joe Donnelly, D-2nd, made the announcement in a press conference Monday.

Brendan Wilczynski of Mishawaka, who works for the Indiana Army National Guard in South Bend, brought the issue to Donnelly’s attention. His wife had to quit her job to care for their now 6-month-old son.

There is no estimate on costs yet, but the new policy will also help in the recruiting process.

“We are currently looking for a lot of members of the full time force of the National Guard,” Wilczynski said. “I think it is just an added benefit that will help us retain qualified members to do those duties to ensure the National Guard is more of a ready element.”

Indiana has the fourth largest group of National Guardsmen in Iraq.

Letters to Donnelly Watch

February 29, 2008

(The following are two emails received by Donnelly Watch during this past week)

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Dear Representative Donnelly:

I am a Democrat living in Rolling Prairie, Indiana, and I just want to
remind you that the Iraq War is still the main issue for many of us,
although the Administration and the Media would like to tell the
country the main issue is something else altogether.

We entered into this war through lies and deceit. Those the likes of
Paul Wolfowicz(spelling?), and Richard Perle, among other Neocons, had
George Bush’s ears; hence our involvement is involved in a war which
never should have been. The ultimate goal is to make the country
(Iraq) ours — to steal its oil, and to bring our brand of Capitalism
to that country. It is WRONG, WRONG, WRONG.

I believe that there is a Universal Law — What goes around comes
around; Whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap, etc., etc.,
etc. We are sowing a whirlwind, and I am afraid we are going to reap
a whirlwind.

There is only one reason to stay in the war — to continue filling the
pockets of a few with a lot of money, while the rest of us and the
poor Iraqi victims of this war are going down the tubes.

Sarah Haefner
Rolling Prairie, Indiana

:::::

TO: Second District Watchdog group (Indiana progressives)
In reference to your website, you posted that Donnelly will not face a Primary opponent due to the fact that none are registered across the Federal district in your part of N. Indiana; there is more of a chance that he as a Democrat will be targeted by wealthy ultra-conservative media savvy groups like “Defense of Democracy” (an unaligned with candidate media group that swiftboats vulnerable incumbents). Please post on your website what you can find out about this PAC (political action group).
An interested media consumer who lives in SW Michigan,
Tee Jay

USA Today: Turnabout for Donnelly on the Iraq War

February 20, 2008

From the 2/17/08 edition of USA Today:

“I feel we’ve made progress, and the other part is I feel we can see an endgame in sight.

He offered a much different view five months before his trip, when he said on the House floor: “I fear this surge will not lead to an Iraq that will be stable over the long term, but will instead put more … American troops into harm’s way.”

Such turnabouts are rare.

Remember when Joe Donnelly repeatedly pledged not to be a rubber stamp for the Bush Administration’s Iraq War policies? At this point, considering Donnelly’s stated position, where is the difference between Donnelly and the Republican Party?

I believe we’d all like to hear about this “endgame” that Donnelly spoke of in the quote above.

Murtha links pullout to war funding bill

February 8, 2008

From the Associated Press/USA Today

Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., said Thursday that he is preparing legislation that would give President Bush the war funding he wants this year, but on the condition that troops leave Iraq by the end of December.

Murtha, chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, said he’ll ask for a March vote on a bill that also would require that troops be fully trained and equipped when deployed.

Similar bills won House approval last year only to fail in the Senate, where Democrats hold a narrower margin of control and 60 votes are needed to overcome procedural hurdles.

Murtha said he’s confident his bill will pass the House, but he’s not sure about the Senate. Bush has requested about $189 billion for operation/s in Iraq and Afghanistan. Congress has approved $87 billion.

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

Is there any question as to how Congressman Donnelly is likely to vote on such a war funding bill?

How will citizens of the 2nd district respond to the prospects for (yet another) war funding bill coming before the House of Representatives?